The three phases of starting a new habit
Understanding the phases of starting a new habit as well as common disruptions.
Creating new habits tends to have three phases. Understanding the three phases and common disruptions of creating new habits will increase your chance of success the next time you try to pick up a new habit.
Now let’s break down each phase of creating new habits so you can get started creating your next healthy habit.
Phase 1: The Honeymoon
This is the phase you are probably in right now. You’re excited about starting a new diet, picking up running, starting every day with reading, or something else you want to do on a regular basis.
Phase 2: The Fight Through
This is the phase that matters the most. This is where things get difficult and you start to lose some or all of the motivation you had in the Honeymoon phase.
This phase is also the most critical to your success. Here is what you can do to make it through this phase:
Recognize. When things get difficult, remind yourself that you knew this was coming and that it is supposed to be hard, not easy. If you can win your first battle in this phase, the next battle will get easier, and the next even easier, and so on and so forth. Just focus on winning 1 Fight Thru battle at a time.
Ask 2 Important Questions. How will I feel if I do this? How will I feel if I don’t do this? It is important to bring emotions into the equation and truly understand what the positives and negatives will feel like. These questions are also great for breaking a bad habit.
Life Projecting. If you are still struggling after attempting 1 and 2 then spend 5-10 minutes thinking about how your life will look in 5 years if you do not make changes right now. It can help to take time to write this down as well if you can.
Phase 3: Second Nature
This phase can be similar to a flow state or what a lot of people will refer to as “being in the groove”. Things are now a lot easier but you can still get pushed back into the Fight Thru phase. Here are a few common ways that can happen so you can recognize them:
The Discouragement Monster. Negative results lead a person to think things are not working, “This isn’t working and there is nothing I can do”. Therefore, you feel hopeless and may give up right then and there.
Disruptions. A significant change in your pattern or “groove” can disrupt things and cause individuals to have to “start over”. Some common disruptions: vacations, holidays, illness, weekends. It’s important to know that disruptions will always happen and can be built in as part of the overall process.
Seduction of Success. You focus on positive results early on and start to think that maybe you are special and you do not need to rely on processes as much as others. Let’s say you are trying to not eat sugar but things have gone well so you now decide you can have sugar once a week. Your process has now been broken and it will become far easier for sugar to continuously slip back into your diet until one day you’re back to eating it regularly.
If at any point a person experiences an interruption that sends him or her back to the Fight Through phase, winning 2 or 3 Fight Through battles will bring them right back into their groove.
“Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.” - Warren Buffet
Final word and one last tip to help you succeed
We all want to form new, healthy habits to be easy and the truth is they are quite difficult. If they weren’t then nobody would have any issues becoming the best, most successful versions of themselves. We often don’t see the struggles of successful people and all the work that it took them to get to where they are. It’s good to recognize that even our idols needed to work hard to form habits over time to get to where they are and we only see the end result.
If you just stick to the process and focus on completing one small task at a time when attempting to form a new habit it will become much easier over time and eventually second nature.
Source: Habit Formation: The 21-Day Myth